Netflix’s ‘Tiger King‘ editor reveals inside details from the series.
Netflix series ‘Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness’ has become a viral hit. Now ‘Tiger King’ editor Doug Abel revealed the secrets behind the documentary series.
In an episode of Hollywood Reporter’s “Behind the Screen” podcast, Dough Abel touched on a variety of topics including how it was originally pitched, Carole Baskin, and crazy behind the scenes stories.
In the podcast, Abel sympathized with the owner of Big Cat Rescue. “I certainly feel for Carole, and of course she’s going to defend herself and again, we don’t come to a conclusion,” Abel said.
Abel also defended Carole Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue. “People don’t seem to understand that Carole has tigers in cages, because they’re dangerous,” Abel said. “It’s surprising to me that people don’t know that, of course, you can’t take an animal who’s raised in captivity and, you know, drop him into a jungle somewhere. You can’t do that. So that’s why she has them in cages. It’s in there, but I don’t think it resonates enough.”
But, Abel defended the show’s reporting.
“We did a really thorough job,” Abel said. “It was extensively researched. It was extensively fact-checked. We did try to, you know, make sure that any statement was made had a counter-statement, that it remained balanced.”
‘Tiger King’ was originally pitched as a nature show.
While Joseph “Joe Exotic” Maldonado-Passage became the star of the show, he was originally expected to play a small role. Eventually, the producers changed their focus towards Joe Exotic and his relationship with Carole Baskin and his conviction for having a murder-for-hire plot against the Big Cat Rescue owner.
“So, originally, I believe it was a project that was being pitched to CNN,” Abel said. “It was kind of a multi-part series, and that each part was going to sort of focus on a different species or a different aspect. So there was going to be a section maybe on trophy hunting, a section on big cats, a section on reptiles, and that was kind of the idea that was being pitched, and we originally cut together something that did include other animals. There was a crazy guy who would handle snakes, but it was all in sort of the context of why is it that humans feel they have dominion over animals that they can, kind of, treat them this way.”
The people behind the series are surprised it did so well. They did not have time to do test screenings and they thought it would be “too weird” for audiences to watch past the first or second episode.
Joe Exotic was a difficult character to edit.
The crew filmed for several years and was tough to keep up with. Joe Exotic reordered himself and had a lot of people record him.
“We do have a very funny scene where Joe, you know, sort of revealed he’s not actually the singer of his own songs,” Abel said. “The only reason we didn’t include that is there was a last-minute legal issue where we were worried that he did actually partially sing on some of them, and we decided to not go down that road. It was also a scene that’s very, very funny, but wherever we put it seemed to derail the story, and so that was kind of regretful that we didn’t have that in there.”
Abel added the main reason Exotic was a challenge for the editing was he said a lot of things that were different than what he had said earlier. “I think we just decided early on, let’s just establish him as somebody who you love to watch but you can’t trust what he says.”
‘Tiger King’ almost did not have that gunshot scene
Abel nearly cut out the scene where one of the characters dies from a self-inflicted gunshot.
“We felt very strongly that we shouldn’t use that footage,” Abel said. “I just thought it seemed very exploitive, but then we learned that it doesn’t actually show the actual incident, it just showed another character, Josh, how he reacted to that happening. And then when I saw it, I realized, no, we should show this, because it’s such a haunting image.”
Abel argued that it was a horrifying scene, which illustrated a changing point for Joe Exotic.
“I think that moment was a very important moment, because it sort of changed everything and it sent Joe into a real bad spiral, understandably,” he said.